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Wiesner to lead new hereditary cancer program

Oct. 25, 2012, 10:37 AM

Georgia Wiesner, M.D., M.S., directs Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s newly created Clinical and Translational Hereditary Cancer Program. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Georgia Wiesner, M.D., M.S., has joined the Vanderbilt Department of Medicine, Division of Genetic Medicine and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center as professor of Medicine and director of the newly created Clinical and Translational Hereditary Cancer Program.

Wiesner was recruited to Vanderbilt to achieve what she calls a major goal “to establish a state-of-the-art, internationally recognized hereditary cancer genetics program. I want Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center to be the recognized leader.”

Wiesner is certified in both Internal Medicine and Medical Genetics.

“We are very fortunate to have such a well respected thought leader in the field of Medical Genetics join our faculty,” said Alfred George Jr., M.D., chief of the Division of Genetic Medicine, who led the search committee.

Prior to joining VICC, Wiesner was an associate professor of Genetics and Medicine and medical director of the Genetic Counseling Training Program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

She was also the medical director of the cancer genetics program and a past director of the Center for Human Genetics at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. She has served as a past president of the American Board of Medical Genetics.

Wiesner said she came to VICC because of the cancer center’s existing focus on genetic medicine and the infrastructure already in place at Vanderbilt to help patients who are at risk for hereditary forms of cancer.

“This was an opportunity to work in a very well-respected cancer center that is forward-thinking and is really at the edge of doing genetic and genomic research,” said Wiesner, who has been named an Ingram Professor of Cancer Research. “It’s like a puzzle has been put together, except for one little piece — and that’s the piece that I would represent — with the opportunity to identify programs already here, what is already excellent and then bring those hereditary cancer components under one systematic, programmatic umbrella.”

VICC leaders say Wiesner is the perfect choice to build a robust hereditary cancer program.

“Georgia Wiesner is a real leader in the field of medical genetics and hereditary cancer and we are very excited that she has agreed to help us design a program that will bring new surveillance and treatment options to our patients and their families,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director of VICC.

The interest in genetics started early in Wiesner’s career, and she originally planned to earn a Ph.D. in the field.

“I realized I was the kind of person who liked patients and patient care but I still wanted to do that from a research perspective. So I’m very much a physician that is interested in all of the evidence: why do we do things and how do we apply the evidence,” explained Wiesner.

This emphasis on evidence will help in the design of the new Clinical and Translational Hereditary Cancer Program, which will include a clinic for patients who are worried about their cancer risk based on their family or personal history.

“Cancer is common, but the true hereditary cancers where there is an actual gene or gene mutation linked to the development of cancer in a family is fairly rare. Our counselors will be looking for those syndromes in patients to determine if genetic testing is needed and to help design programs to care for those patients and their families,” said Wiesner.

Wiesner received her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, and a master’s in Genetics at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She completed her M.D. at the University of Minnesota Medical School, where she was chief resident of Internal Medicine and completed a fellowship in Medical Genetics.

The new program will be jointly supported by the VICC, the Division of Genetic Medicine and the Office of Personalized Medicine.

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